Colonial Check-In: Could Elon Be Dangerous?

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports


Courtesy Elon Athletics

After a one year hiatus that called for a "play-in" game during the conference tournament, the Colonial is finally back to an even number of teams with the addition of Elon University over the summer.

The CAA, which lost four competitive basketball teams over a two year span (VCU in 2012, George Mason, Georgia State, Old Dominion in 2013), gained perennial Southern Conference contender, College of Charleston, in 2013.

This season, Elon enters the CAA as the smallest school from the smallest city of the teams in the conference. They follow Charleston’s lead in joining from the SoCon, where they went 11-5 in league play in 2013-14.

While it remains to be seen what Elon can do in Colonial conference play, early signs show they could be a sleeper team. The Phoenix bested Miami (Ohio) in November’s Cancun Challenge tournament, while suffering close defeats to Charlotte and Missouri and making a second-half comeback at Duke.

It’s Northeastern that tops this edition of the CAA rankings, however. The Huskies sport the conference’s second highest ranking in the RPI (64), going to Florida State and taking down the Seminoles.

1. Northeastern Huskies (6-2, RPI 64):

Notable Wins: at Florida State

Quality Opponent Losses: at UMass, at Harvard

Bad Defeats: None

While league play doesn’t tip until Jan. 3, the Huskies proved they won’t be scared to play away from home, going into Tallahassee and besting FSU, 76-73. Their only two losses are to RPI top 50 teams in UMass (50) and Harvard (14). Redshirt senior forward Scott Eatherton has had a hot start, averaging 16.5 points and seven rebounds per game. Northeastern was picked first in the preseason standings.

2. Hofstra Pride (7-2, RPI 174):

Notable Wins: vs. Stony Brook

Quality Opp. Losses: at NC State, at USF

Bad Defeats: None

The Pride have one more win than the Huskies, but looking at their wins, really nothing stands out. They beat Stony Brook at home, which was their highest win in the RPI (163). Their losses are to quality conference teams in NC State and South Florida, falling by a single point during their visit to Tampa. The Pride have one of the more underwhelming schedules leading up to January’s conference play.

3. James Madison Dukes (6-3, RPI 131):

Notable Wins: vs. Richmond

Quality Opp. Losses: vs. Virginia, vs. Ohio State

Bad Defeats: at East Carolina

James Madison took part in Ohio State’s Buckeye Classic, playing home games against Colgate, Sacred Heart, and Campbell aside from traveling to Ohio State. They took care of business against every team except for OSU. The Dukes notched a quality win against A-10’s Richmond at home. They too have an unimpressive schedule before CAA play begins.

4. Towson Tigers (7-3, RPI 165):

Notable Wins: None

Quality Opp. Losses: at Georgetown, at Temple

Bad Defeats: None

Towson was a tough, rugged team last season thanks to all-conference forward Jerrelle Benimon, who has since moved onto the NBA Developmental League. While the Tigers certainly miss Benimon’s talent, they have weathered the loss nicely, with their only losses coming at Alabama, at Georgetown and at Temple. Towson was picked seventh in the preseason poll, so it should be interesting to see how they stack up in league play. They haven’t been overly impressive, but haven’t laid an egg either.

5. Charleston Cougars (5-5, RPI 207):

Notable Wins: vs. George Mason

Quality Opp. Losses: vs. UConn, vs. Texas A&M, at West Virginia

Bad Defeats: vs. Gardner Webb

Charleston hired head coach Earl Grant on Sept. 2. No, that’s not a typo. Grant had just a few days over two months to get to know his players before an early season schedule that included Connecticut, Texas A&M, George Mason and West Virginia. The Cougars fought in an eight-point loss to UConn, led Texas A&M at the half and beat George Mason. Their only "bad loss" is a blowout at West Virginia. This is without mentioning they still need to play at Davidson, at LSU and at Miami before New Year’s. Everyone has counted out the Cougars after their late summer coaching hire, but Grant is an energetic coach looking to prove himself in a competitive conference.

6. William & Mary Tribe (5-3, RPI 150):

Notable Wins: vs. Wofford

Quality Opp. Losses: at Florida, at Richmond

Bad Defeats: at High Point

William & Mary was picked second in the conference preseason poll, but they are a team that just isn’t that exciting in non-conference play. They were blown out at Florida and lost by one at Richmond, meanwhile they lost at High Point and barely beat a Rice team that is ranked 349th in the RPI. A win over 52nd RPI ranked Wofford was nice, but they will need to play better to compete with Old Dominion and North Carolina before CAA play begins.

7. Elon Phoenix (5-5, RPI 196):

Notable wins: vs. Miami (Ohio)

Quality Opp. Losses: vs. Charlotte, at Missouri, at Duke

Bad Losses: None

As noted above, the Phoenix have played well against a tough schedule. All five of their losses are against teams that rank in the RPI top 160, including close losses on the road to Charlotte and Missouri. Elon is supposed to take the "better conference hit" when league play begins. They’ll play better competition in the CAA than they would in the SoCon, but early returns may show that Elon could finish higher than their last place preseason poll position.

8. UNCW Seahawks (3-3, RPI 41):

Notable Wins: None

Quality Opp. Losses: at Davidson, at Louisville, at Old Dominion

Bad Defeats: None

UNCW has only played six games, which is least among all conference teams. They have beaten the teams they are supposed to, but not much else. All three of their losses have been by double digits, albeit all against quality conference opponents. Also, one of their credited wins is against a non-NCAA opponent in St. Andrews University, who’s a member of the NAIA. The Seahawks were chosen ninth in the preseason poll, which is looking relatively fitting.

9. Drexel Dragons (2-7, RPI 185):

Notable Wins: None

Quality Opp. Losses: vs. St. Joseph’s, vs. Miami, vs. USC

Bad Defeats: vs. University of Sciences

The word bad in "bad losses" should probably be capitalized for the Dragons. The University of Sciences, a Division II school in Philadelphia, played at Drexel and left with a two-point victory. It was the first D-I school to lose to a D-II school this season, which was appropriately- and sadly for Drexel- featured on SportsCenter. They were picked top five in the preseason poll, but they certainly are not looking like a top team at the moment. They would probably be last in these rankings if it weren’t for the troubles that the CAA defending champs are experiencing.

10. Delaware Blue Hens (0-7, RPI 344):

Notable Wins: None
Quality Opp. Losses: at Villanova, at Stanford
Bad Defeats: vs. Delaware State

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Delaware qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season after beating William & Mary in the CAA Championship, but hard times have fallen in Newark. In the Blue Hens' defense, they did lose their two best players in Carl Baptiste and Davon Usher from last season’s championship. Their closest loss was a four-point defeat at home against Army. They weren’t expected to compete in the CAA this year.

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